Pou Mātāwaka

The diversity of the New Zealand Public Service makes it stronger. However, there are barriers to employment within State agencies - specifically around gender, ethnicity and culture, disability, orientation and identity.

A growing body of evidence providers insights into what, where and potentially why some of these barriers exist. One of those barriers tracked through workforce data over the last eight years, has been the increasing gap in pay between people of different backgrounds. This manifests itself in lower pay for people of Pacific, Māori and Asian descent. Pacific women tend to experience the lowest rates of pay, on average.

The research report, Exploring the Ethnic Pay Gap in the Public Services: Voices from the Rito by Professor Jarrod Haar, was commissioned to capture the voices of those most affected by the ethnic pay gap, and to provide first-hand insights on where future action to address the findings should be focused.

The report highlights five key themes for future focus: our public sector ethos; management and leadership; ethnic representation; remuneration and pay; and our climate of inclusion.

We can see that:

  • People of Pacific, Māori and Asian descent report being dedicated and enthusiastic employees within the Public Services. Working for 'their people' and 'their communities' is especially rewarding.
  • Leadership is a key factor, with positive or negative leadership making all the difference. There is a need from managers to better understand minority employees and tailor leadership styles accordingly.
  • There is a distinct need for more Pacific, Māori and Asian role models. Managers and senior leaders of ethnic minorities are too few given the communities serviced and workforce demographics.
  • Pay negotiation is another key factor, with Pacific women being highlighted as being disadvantaged due to the cultural risk of being viewed as ‘rude’ or ‘disrespectful’.
  • Inclusion is important and unconscious bias is well understood. While efforts have been focused on ‘modifying’ such biases and developing a more ‘inclusive’ Sector, there continues to be a need for more effective work.

This report is a starting point for collaborative action across government – ensuring we continue to attract, grow and support a strong, diverse Public Service that is equitable, inclusive, and reflects the communities we live in and work for.

Over the next 12 months, the Pou Mātāwaka Group will work in collaboration with system leaders to build on initiatives and programmes that are currently underway to address the driving factors of the ethnic pay gap. Pou Mātāwaka will use the voices we have heard, the insights shared, and the knowledge gained, to drive impactful change across the system.

Click here to download the full report